Pre-Play Review: Freebooter’s Fate   Leave a comment

Tonight I’m hoping to give Freebooter’s Fate a first try with Loy.  We both have the rules, and we both have models.  Well, I have a legal force out of the starter set, Loy has some chosen models that don’t actually work (no Deckhands), but that might change or have changed by tonight.

Yesterday I read through the rulebook while my baby slept (he’s so nice letting me do things like this every once in a while), and before I actually play them out I wanted to write some thoughts on them.  I’ll say first that before buying into the game I was intrigued by a) the piratical theme, b) the nice models, c) the various card decks.  Let’s see, after reading the rules, if the game still looks interesting…

The Rulebook

Overall, the rulebook looks great.  Each page has an old parchment design, which is always good when you’re dealing with a pirate theme.  The various fonts throughout the book are generally pleasing, and for the most part the visuals are cool: character sketches, photographs of models and stat cards.  The order of the contents works as well, and makes it easy enough to learn the game, before looking at the factions and the scenarios.

But, the rulebook is not without its issues.  For one, there are a lot of typos.  Now, sure, I make errors all the time when I’m typing…but I don’t have to read my own dribble afterwards!  There’s just something about typos in rulebooks that irks me to no end.  Often it’s a problem with translation.  Like the upside-down-and-backwards quotation marks in this book…yeesh, it gets annoying, especially as they’re used a lot.  Another problem I’ve found is that when there are photographs used in examples, the explanation is often hard to understand when there isn’t enough labelling in the photos themselves.  For instance there’s a picture used to explain LOS and Arc of Vision, and while the explanation is just fine, it’s hard to tell which characters (out of five) it is referring to for each point. 

So really, they aren’t huge issues, and overall the book is well put together.  It’s not as awesome as others (I quite enjoy the books by Wyrd and Privateer Press, for instance), but it is definitely not a low-quality book at all, either in terms of visuals or layout/comprehension.

The Rules

1. Keelhauling for fun and profit merely talks about the game in general: you use minis, you play scenarios, have fun, etc.

2. Characters and cards talks about, well, characters and cards!  It goes through the layout of a stat card, explaining the attributes and other things you’ll find there, but saving more details for the relevant sections of the book.  One thing I don’t like about the cards is that the attribute values are written like “5/10,” where the starting value is 10, and the post-critical hit value is 5.  As I read left to right, I personally would rather have the left-hand number as the starting value.  It just seems odd to me.  Also, in the rulebook, this fact is not actually mentioned until later on in the Damage section, which is also odd and somewhat confusing.  You also learn about the different decks of cards in the game.

3. Setting up the game is straightforward and goes from “hiring a crew” to “setting up the battlefield.”

4. Start of play and sequence of play is also straightforward.  The explanation about how the turns play out is good.  I do have to complain again, though, in that there are three paragraphs that are repeated.  Meh, it just makes you get that deja vu feeling, you know? 🙂

5. Basic terms and concepts.  Here we start to learn about how models work and interact on the table.  For instance, LOS is pretty standard (if the model can see any part of another model’s head, torso or base, it has LOS).  However, Arc of Vision is a 180* arc that extends from the rear of the base.  Oh yeah, bases are square in this game, if you didn’t know that already.  I’m not used to games with square-based figures, but the AoV like this cuts out the potential for debate that arises when players mark a 180* facing on their round bases (I hope not too many people are that annoying).  When a character is in a building, his AoV starts at the outside wall instead of his read, which is cool.  This section also describes the terms Cover, Base-to-base contact, Prone, Defenceless, Out of action and solid footing.

6. Movement and terrain are also pretty standard, although Movement in FF does incorporate jumping, climbing, swimming and falling in ways that other games don’t.  I think this is great, and is going to make terrain very playable in this game, whereas in other games it is often less-so.  There are even rules about running along rails and stuff that you can’t end your movement on, so they definitely want you to have terrain that is varied and full of character, like broken rope bridges and peak rooftops, for sure.  Awesome.  There is also a section here on types of terrain that helps you identify penalties and characteristics of different terrain, like stairs, jungle, water, rails, etc.

7. Combat, a.k.a. why we’re all here.  In general combat in this game is pretty darn cool.  Aside from some confusing parts of this section (like using the term “right-hand Ranged Attack Value,” meaning the right-most number out of two, and not the value of the Right Hand, or the examples of combats with the poor labelling), the rules about combat are easy to follow.  Under ranged combat there are rules for long/short range (and weapons have associated RAV values), targetting a model in a cluster (i.e. in a melee), elevated position and ammunition.  Under close combat there are rules about aligning in base-to-base, aligning, support and defended obstacles.  All of the rules here are interesting and intuitive.  And it gets even better with hit determination and damage!

So, generally when you attack someone you are going to choose a number of location cards equal to your A(ttack) attribute.  Some actions, abilities and various modifiers will change this, up to 4 cards total.  The defender will choose a number of location cards equal to his D(efence) value, again with actions, abilities and modifiers changing this, up to 5.  Each player will have his own set body location cards to choose from, both sets being the same.  The goal is for the attacker to choose locations that the defender does not defend.  If this happens, the defender is hit.  If this happens more than once (more than one location was attacked and not defended) it counts as a critical. 

Now we move on to damage.  The attacker’s weapon’s RAV or ST(rength) is added to a Fate card, vs. the defender’s T(oughness) and a Fate card.  If the latter is higher, no damage.  If the former is higher, the difference is the amount of damage taken, and marked off from the Vitality boxes on the stat card.  Now comes the criticals.  If only one location was hit, another Fate card is drawn.  If it is equal to or lower than the damage caused, it’s a critical.  The location that was hit suffers a critical, and it’s higher value is marked off.  As well, if the character gets another critical hit there, they are out of action, or if they take three total criticals.  And lastly, if either hand is given a critical, the weapon used in that hand is lost!  Ouchie!

I really like how damage is dealt with in Freebooter’s Fate, I have to say.  I think the Malifaux-like Fate deck mixed with the body location cards and criticals is going to make for some fun combat.

8. Moral test.  Yes, it should be Morale, but there’s another glaring typo.  A character must make a Morale test/Panic check under different circumstances, namely getting greviously hurt or fighting with afearsome opponent.  When panicked a character has to flee until they rally, and every turn they fail to rally they run to the board edge.  Panicking characters are defenceless (A and D are 0, etc).  To pass a Morale test you need to flip a Fate card that is equal to or lower than your current Morale value, which of course gets lower the more damage you take.

9. Actions and traits details Standard Actions (the simple or complex actions that everyone can do), Special Actions (the ones that characters have listed on their cards) and Traits (special abilities also listed on the stat cards).  Most of the Standard Actions are pretty regular for a skirmish game, including ones like Aim that you don’t always see, as more unique ones like Take a Swing (bonus to ST on the next attack) and Smash (a special combat action to break stuff down).  Special Actions and Traits similarly have both familiar and unique things your characters might be able to do.  I like a lot of various abilities here, and it will be cool to see them get used out on the battlefield.

10. Crews is all about hiring your crews from the different factions, and Mercenaries.  Each character in the (core) game has a little snippet, either description or conversation, and its stat card here.  Some also have cool sketches, as well.  A lot of fluff here makes this what I feel is an unnecessarily long section, but I have not yet gotten fully immersed in the game’s backstory yet.  I’m sure if I do, this won’t be a problem.

11. Scenarios lists all of the scenarios you can play out, how they’re setup and won, etc.  There are some interesting ones, including “The hunt for rats in October.”

And that’s the rulebook! After first reading the quick-start rules I was non-plussed about the game, but now that I have read the rules I am eager to try it out.  I think it could be a pretty neat game to play.  It’s not going to replace Malifaux as my skirmish game of choice, I’m sure, but it will be something different enough to have.  The game sort of feels like Malifaux meets Rattrap‘s pulp stuff (.45 Adventures and Fantastic Worlds), in that it plays like the former, with the stats-connected-to-body-locations aspect of the latter.  And thankfully I like both, and the added pirate theme! Excellent!

So, hopefully we end up playing tonight so I can give more insight into the game.

Thanks for reading.

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Posted February 21, 2012 by mrborges in Freebooter's Fate, Review

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